Court orders four rail union leaders to remain in prison

SEOUL, Jan. 29 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul court on Wednesday ordered four leaders of the state rail company's labor union, accused of spearheading an "illegal" strike, to remain in prison.

The leaders of the union of state-run Korea Railroad Corp. (KORAIL), including its head Kim Myung-hwan, have been detained since Jan. 17 on suspicion of playing leading roles in the strike that disrupted the national rail system for more than three weeks, the longest such strike ever. The government claims that the strike has caused huge financial loss.

After holding a hearing to determine the legality of the imprisonment, the Seoul Western District Court denied the habeas corpus petition filed by the four.

"The detainment (of the four) is appropriate because there has been no particular change in the situation since the issuance of the arrest warrants," judge Kim Ha-neul said in his ruling.

The union leaders voluntarily turned themselves in to police after defying police summons and taking refuge in several groups in different locations even after the strike ended on Dec. 30.

The union claimed its leaders had not been fleeing police and had only been discussing unresolved issues such as the management's disciplinary measures against unionists who participated in the walkout.

Hundreds of KORAIL unionists face tough disciplinary measures for their participation in the strike, which protested a government plan to establish a subsidiary to run some high-speed train services. The union suspects the move is a precursor to rail privatization.

Despite a dramatic closure after rival parties cut a deal with the KORAIL union to form a parliamentary subcommittee on preventing the privatization of rail services, police and prosecutors have vowed no leniency toward those who led the walkout.

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